The Gastroenterology Foundation of South Africa was established in 2006 with the aim of contributing towards the continuing medical education of medical and surgical Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists. Shortly after the inauguration of the Foundation, our focus turned to include all fellows training in Gastroenterology and Hepatology including medical, surgical and paediatric fellows. In addition, we encourage and contribute to the funding of research in these fields.
Where we are now:
Over the last 17 years the Foundation has in South Africa established itself as an effective organization attracting and continuing to collaborate with a number of international organizations including the AGA (American Gastroenterology Association), EASL (European Association for the Study of Liver Disease), UEG (United European Gastroenterology), WGO (World Gastroenterology Organization), ASGE (American Society of Gastroenterology), IASL (International Association for the Study of Liver), AASLD (American Association for the Study of Liver Disease) and the WEO (World Endoscopy Organization) bringing various post graduate courses from Europe and the USA to our academic meetings in SSA.
Since its in inception the Gastroenterology Foundation of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has raised over R50 million (approximately $3.0 million USD) in the form of generous pledges from the pharmaceutical and the device industry. It has sponsored 20 research grants, 102 travel awards to fellows in training for international travel and 415 local travel awards. In addition, we have awarded two international scholarships, one to Brown University in the USA and two to Oxford University in the United Kingdom. In 2022 we assisted with a Fellowship to Ghent for advanced endoscopy and in 2023 we have facilitated 2 fellowships – one for Liver transplantation at Kings college hospital and the other in IBD at St Thomas’s hospital London.
Since 2015 we have actively extended our activities in SSA with meetings in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Sudan.
2016 was a milestone in the history of the Gastroenterology Foundation of South Africa. We celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding with two notable events- the commitment to form a sub-Saharan Society which was announced in Cape Town in December 2018 as GHASSA (the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Association of sub-Saharan Africa) joining 14 SSA countries, and the announcement of the Gastroenterology Foundation of SSA which has evolved from the foundation which has been so successful in South Africa.
What we do:
All our programs in South Africa continue and these include a strong presence at SAGES, the annual national GI meeting in South Africa, and meetings devoted to various interest groups such as Acid Peptic and Motility diseases, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Liver diseases, Endoscopy and Patient Blood Management. In addition, interest group meetings have facilitated ad boards for the publication of SSA guidelines and position statements. The SSA GI guidelines for Patient Blood Management (PBM) were submitted to the SAMJ in November 2022 and awaits publication.
Fellows Post Graduate Training
The Fellows meeting held early in February/March annually has proven to be a popular meeting for all gastroenterology, hepatology fellows and paediatric fellows in training. Twenty-three fellows attended the inaugural meeting in 2010 – in 2020 47 fellows from SA and SSA attended with 25 faculty members. In 2022, the meeting hosted 10 Sub-Saharan fellows, 38 local fellows and 22 heads of department.
In addition, a grant to transmit the entire post graduate meeting virtually was successfully negotiated and 40 fellows attended virtually from SSA.
We envisage the Fellows program to continue as a ‘hybrid meeting’ - both face to face and virtually to SSA since there is a strong demand for Fellows training in SSA.
POCUS - point of care Ultrasound training for Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists
Over the last two decades, the use of Ultrasonography by clinicians at the bedside, has become increasingly popular as devices have become smaller, more accessible and more affordable.
Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) refers to the use of ultrasound, in the hands of the clinician as opposed to the radiologist, and at the patient’s bedside. POCUS provides diagnostic information that allows for a rapid diagnosis, often without the need for additional investigations and allowing for management to start promptly.
With this in mind, and with Intestinal Ultrasound beginning to feature strongly at GI International Conferences and entering management guidelines, the Gastro Foundation hosted the first Liver/Intestinal POCUS meeting in Cape Town in July 2022 with 26 Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists representing all GI/Hepatology academic units in South Africa.
G-ECHO weekly webinars
In 2018 the introduction of the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) model of tele-mentoring for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis B and C was facilitated in South Africa by the Foundation and driven by the Cape Town Faculty. ECHO links the Cape Town Hub with spokes in Johannesburg (SA), Kumasi (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on a monthly basis and participation has grown as it has matured. The Foundation funded a monthly Viral hepatitis ECHO program (VHSSA) together with quarterly 2 hour symposiums.
Beginning in October 2020, and in view of the COVID pandemic, we initiated G-ECHO (GI Hepatology -ECHO) to other aspects of Gastroenterology with a weekly programme which alternates GI Endoscopy, Screening and treatment of Liver cancer (HCC), Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD), Patient Blood Management (PBM) and an ECHO program devoted to Pathology beginning with Liver clinico-pathologic case conference sessions and including GI pathology attracting many hepatic and GI histopathologists. A dedicated platform Paediatric GI joined the G – ECHO program in 2022 and will continue in 2023.
During 2022 the G-ECHO attracted 1519 registrations and 817 participants from SSA with an average of 20 – 40 participants joining per session.
G - ECHO continues in its present format with weekly webinars in 2023
A G-ECHO platform for the training of Medical Gastroenterology fellows and another for GI and HPB Surgical fellows, established in 2022, will continue in 2023.
All G-ECHO presentations are recorded and these webinars are available on the Gastro Foundation website under the G-ECHO logo plus on the Gastro Foundation YouTube channel.